Why Jimmy Wales got booted from Wikia's top job

Owen Thomas · 10/31/08 04:00PM

Why did Jimmy Wales, the cofounder of Wikipedia, an online compendium which includes the world's most detailed article on flim-flams, step down as CEO of Wikia, the for-profit website host which recently laid off some of its employees? The way Wales likes to tell the story, years later, he realized he was a free-flying entrepreneur, not an earthbound bureaucrat. So he hired Gil Penchina, a former eBay executive, to mind the shop. That's not what really happened. Wales was fired from his job as CEO by the company's investors.The cause? The same kind of expense-account hijinks that landed him in trouble at the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit parent of Wikipedia. In 2006, Wales was courting Marc Bodnick, a cofounder of Silicon Valley private-equity firm Elevation Partners, in an effort to find a way to profit from Wikipedia, despite its nonprofit status and volunteer contributors. Bodnick and an assistant had traveled to St. Petersburg, Fla., where Wikimedia was then based. The talks went nowhere, but Wales, his wife, Bodnick, and Bodnick's assistant had a $1,300 meal at one of the city's finest restaurants. ($600 of the bill was spent on wine.) At that point, the Wikimedia Foundation had confiscated Wales's corporate card, so he paid for the meal himself. But he then sought to have it reimbursed by Wikia. Michael Davis, Wikia's chief operating officer, became enraged and reported the expense to Jeremy Levine, a Wikia board member and partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, which had invested $4 million into the company only a month before. Levine then told Wales he was fired as CEO, and found Penchina, who had already made a fortune at eBay. Wales must hate that: Every time he sees Penchina, he must ask himself, "Why is this guy rich and I'm not?" Penchina, meanwhile, must be asking why Wikia is still paying Wales a salary.

Facebook execs to favor widgets built by investors, relatives

Nicholas Carlson · 07/23/08 12:20PM

Today at its F8 developers' conference, Facebook will announce a plan to give favored widgets more abilities to promote themselves on the site. The first two apps to get "preferred" status will be Causes and iLike. What does being a "preferred" widgetmaker mean? A source tells us that in the short term, Facebook will simply promote preferred apps in users' News Feeds more often, increasing their chances of spreading from friend to friend. "Basically, it is a subsidy program for their favorite darlings," says our source. Causes is an app backed by former Facebook president Sean Parker; iLike is a startup backed by Marc Bodnick of Elevation Partners, who is also a private Facebook investor and the brother-in-law of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Our source also tells us that after top tier preferred apps, there will be a middle tier of "certified/approved/vetted" applications as well.

Wikipedia receives $500,000 from another VC

Owen Thomas · 03/27/08 02:40PM

Ordinarily, this would be good news: Vinod Khosla, the former Kleiner Perkins venture capitalist, and his wife Neeru Khosla, have donated $500,000 to Wikipedia's nonprofit parent, the Wikimedia Foundation. But founder Jimmy Wales's dalliances with other VCs — chiefly Roger McNamee and Marc Bodnick of Elevation Partners — have cast a shadow over every dollar the organization receives. Is this one of the $500,000 donations McNamee recently said he helped broker? And if so, what do he and Khosla expect to get in return? For starters, keep a close eye on Wikipedia's articles on ethanol, a major business interest of Khosla's. Wales, ordinarily Wikipedia's front man, makes no appearance in the press release, quoted below:

Jimmy Wales's $1,300 dinner with the VC

Owen Thomas · 03/20/08 06:40PM

Everyone's beating up on Wkipedia founder Jimmy Wales for his shady dealings. But evidence has now arisen that if he's a money-grubber, he's not a particularly skilled one. When Wales turned in receipts for $30,000 in expenses charged to the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia's nonprofit parent, among them was a $1,300 dinner at a steakhouse in Tampa. In attendance: Marc Bodnick, another Elevation Partners cofounder. Bodnick later introduced Wales to Bono. (His sister-in-law Sheryl Sandberg, then a Google exec, now Facebook's COO, helped connect Bodnick and Bono, a contact from her Washington days.) The foundation's board ultimately turned down Wales's request to get paid back for the dinner.

Fake Bono revealed!

Jordan Golson · 11/27/07 08:33PM

Since I first noticed that Fake Bono had taken over Fake Steve Jobs's blog, I've been wondering who Fake Bono really is. We had a number of guesses: Dan Lyons was taking on a second alter ego; Bono himself was writing; Marc Bodnick, cofounder of Elevation Partners, where Bono is a partner, was taking a turn; and Bono-wannabe Valleywag contributor Paul Boutin. After carefully reviewing the Bono posts, we're ready to reveal the identity of Fake Bono.

How iLike got U2's new song

Megan McCarthy · 11/15/07 05:53PM

As CNET points out, it's all about the business ties. U2 lead singer Bono is the most stylish managing director at Elevation Parters, the Sand Hill private equity firm. Elevation cofounder Marc Bodnick is on the board of directors of iLike. Hence, the arrangement. Bonus for close students of the Valley's real social networks: Marc Bodnick's wife is Michelle Sandberg, the sister of Google executive Sheryl Sandberg, who's married to former Yahoo Music chief Dave Goldberg, who's an iLike advisor. Got that?

Fake Steve Jobs gets down with San Francisco's filthiest hacks

Owen Thomas · 11/08/07 08:00PM

The dirty secret behind last night's book-tour party for Dan Lyons, the man behind the Fake Steve Jobs blog? Rumor is it almost didn't happen, thanks to a little tiff over who was going to rep him. Flack fight! After the jump, the real battle over Fake Steve.

iLike a good mustache, don't you?

Owen Thomas · 09/07/07 08:24PM

ATHERTON — I'm told I left the party too early, but once Third Eye Blind started playing, Thursday night's iLike bash was pretty much over for me. Don't get me wrong — I like Third Eye Blind. It's right in tune with my utterly bland and more than slightly gay musical tendencies. But this is exactly why I will never, ever use a service like iLike, which makes a Facebook app that allows you to reveal your musical taste, or lack thereof, to your friends by posting songs, and find people with similar tastes by seeing who's going to concerts. Here's the thing: I know my taste in music is egregiously bad. I don't want to advertise the fact to the world, and if anything, I want to meet people who specifically dislike the music I listen to. That's all right, though — what I really wanted to listen to was the buzz in the room.